3. Archaeological publishing in Britain: The London Catalogue of Books 1816-1851

Histories of archaeology are commonly based on a procession of key figures and publications; the process of selection often depends on the extent to which authors and their works are seen as representative of an age, and/or the extent to which their work was innovative. A scan of popular books on the history of archaeology suggests that this was a period of overseas discovery, with attention focussed on 'pioneers' such as Austin Henry Layard (e.g. Malley 2004; 2008; 2012), and this is reflected in both contemporary and subsequent newspaper coverage of archaeologists and their exploits in this period (for example, Layard's discoveries in Assyria received far more coverage in newspapers and magazines than archaeological discoveries in Britain in the same period (e.g. Anon 1847: 409; Malley 1996; Bacon 1976)). However, in order to determine whether a particular figure or subject is truly representative or typical of a period it is necessary to look at the bigger picture; this picture can only be obtained through scrutiny of a range of raw sources.

There is now a vast range of sources available which can be used as a basis for quantitative analyses in book history, although assembling the data for this kind of analysis is far from straightforward (Eliot 2002). The starting point for this study is the London Catalogue of Books 1816-51.

The Preface to the 'Index' states that it is an ideal source of reference for anyone looking to identify books published on a particular subject in this time period. The 'Index' is organised by subject, and includes the author and brief title, while the 'Catalogue' provides an alphabetical list of authors, and includes the title, format, price and publisher. This catalogue was aimed primarily at booksellers and their customers, and as the name suggests, was London-based. It developed out of the numerous bibliographies compiled and published by William Bent in the second half of the eighteenth century, which included A Modern Catalogue of Books and The London Catalogue of Books. His projects were continued into the nineteenth century by his son Robert, based in Paternoster Row, and subsequently by Thomas Hodgson, who produced the catalogue used here (Growall 1903, 88-91). The 1816-1851 Catalogue has been selected because it covers a period which is somewhat neglected in studies of the history of archaeology, particularly in relation to the ways in which notions of national identity were informed by, and impacted on, the development of archaeology (Díaz-Andreu 2007, 60). This was also a period when publishing was becoming increasingly commercialised; numerous publishing firms, which are still in existence today, were beginning to establish and promote particular period and regional interests. This catalogue has also been chosen for practical reasons, since it includes an index of books relating to archaeology and antiquities. As the publisher points out, this version of the 'Catalogue' lists significantly more volumes (over forty thousand) than the numerous earlier versions, and the Index, which includes lists of works published on particular subjects, means that it is possible to locate books in the general alphabetical listing far more easily.

As emphasised by Eliot (2002), it is important to be aware of the biography of a source and potential problems and limitations; for example, the categorisation used in this, and many other catalogues, is not always consistent with modern conceptions of archaeological or antiquarian topics, and the author and brief title given in the 'Index' are not always consistent with those in the alphabetical listing. The 'Catalogue' is London-based, and as the authors acknowledge, no catalogue can ever be complete or error free. Nevertheless, when used together, the 'Index' and 'Catalogue' provide a useful range of information for an analysis of trends in publishing on archaeology and antiquities in this period; price is of particular importance since it determined the nature of access to a book. A table has been compiled based on data provided in these two volumes, and where necessary has been supplemented by data from other sources, including the Nineteenth-Century Short Title Catalogue, bibliographers manuals, such as Lowndes (1834) and Bohn (1841), and the Publishers Circular, which was published by Sampson Low from 1837 (Growall 1903, 91). As argued by Eliot (2002), the more sources that are used, the more likely it is that the patterns identified are realistic. This database is not a comprehensive list of publications produced in this period, but is certainly sufficient to show the kinds of information that archaeologists can obtain from such sources, and will serve as a starting point for a more comprehensive study of publishing trends in this period. The collection of information regarding print runs and dates of publication would provide further insights, but has not been attempted here.

Table 1: Raw data compiled from subject index (antiquities) in The Classified Index to the London Catalogue of Books Published in Great Britain 1816 to 1851 ... (1853) London: T. Hodgson and the alphabetical listing in The London Catalogue of Books published in Great Britain: With their sizes, prices, and publishers' names. 1816 to 1851. (1851) London: T. Hodgson.

Table 1 includes the following details: author, short title (taken from the index), full title (taken from the alphabetical list), format (see below), price and regions (Britain, Europe, World or General). Many volumes were published in different formats at different prices; these have been listed as separate volumes (as in the alphabetical list) since they were intended for different markets. The prices have also been converted to decimal values for ease of comparison (20 shillings/pound; 240 pennies/pound), although it is important to stress that these values must be scrutinised in relation to the cost of living at the time (see St Clair 2004, chapter 11 and 457 on currency units and the value of the shilling in relation to income and wealth).

It is clear from the average price of books on archaeology and antiquities in this period that most were completely out of the reach of the majority of the population (Table 11 and Table 12). In the early part of the nineteenth century most agricultural labourers earned between 12-18 shillings per week, while 30 shillings per week was considered a comfortable working class income (Eliot 2001). An annual income of £150 would have been sufficient for a modest middle-class lifestyle, with one servant. Taking into account essential expenditure, the remaining disposable income for these groups would have been very small indeed, and books were very expensive in Britain—for example, a Walter Scott novel in the 1820s would have cost more than most working-class men earned in a week (Eliot 2001; St Clair 2004, 477-79).

Eliot argues that the price of a book could act as a kind of 'cultural friction' and price should therefore be seen as a critical factor in any study concerned with access to knowledge: 'In any money economy, price determines how a book is sold, where it is sold, in what condition it is sold, to who it is sold, and in what quantities. It determines if and how a book gets to a reader, as well as the conditions in which that book is read and absorbed' (2001, 160-1).

Eliot further shows that reading would not have been a priority for the majority of the lower classes. Books and newspapers were often read out by a literate person to a group of non-literate people. Even if they were literate, there were many other forms of entertainment, particularly in towns, which would have proved a more appealing alternative. Domestic lighting was also an issue, since candles were expensive, and more efficient forms, such as gas lighting, were available only to those with at least an upper-middle class income. The majority of books listed in this catalogue could only have been purchased by those with at least a comfortable middle-class income (see Eliot 2001 for a detailed discussion of book prices in relation to incomes in this period and St Clair 2004, Appendix 1, 477-479 for average incomes in this period). The catalogues and borrowing records of libraries, and in particular circulating libraries, should therefore be seen as an important area for future research into the wider consumption and dissemination of archaeological knowledge, since for the majority of the population, particularly in the first half of the nineteenth century, the purchase of volumes would not have been either a possibility or particularly desirable (Eliot 2006a; St Clair 2004, 728-30 and 665-75 for library archives and online databases; see also Alston's Library History Data Base). Even for middle class readers with an interest in archaeology and antiquities, libraries would still have been the most important source of archaeological literature. The libraries of local archaeological societies may have been particularly important for this group, and again this is an area which merits further study. Newspapers, cheap magazines and church literature were the most important source of information for the majority of the population (see St Clair 2004, 574-577 for newspapers, magazines etc. and numbers of copies circulated; Aspinall 1946). The ways in which subjects were selected and presented in such publications is of crucial importance for understanding wider perceptions of the subject.

The format in which a volume was produced is closely related to price and also to perceived status, and is therefore an important factor influencing the dissemination of knowledge, and the subsequent impact of an author and his/her works. Most books produced during the eighteenth century were standard-sized octavos (8o or 8vo) or pocket-sized duodecimos (12o or 12mo). Quartos were a more expensive format aimed at gentlemen and scholars (Sher 2006, 81). (Table 1 and Table 13). Publication in Quarto (4to) format was a mark of status and distinction, and this was also a popular format with publishers as they were often more profitable than books in smaller formats (Sher 2006, 82). Quartos were seen as the most appropriate format for volumes on history; for example, Lord Hailes states that his wife 'could not bring herself to suppose that (octavo) was consistent with the dignity of history' (Hailes to Sir Adam Fergusson of Kilkerran, 3 June 1774, NLS, MS 25302, cited in Sher 2006, 86).

Folios are usually thought of as a common format of the eighteenth century, yet they were actually rare by the latter part of the century. As noted by Sher (2006, 81), this format was largely reserved for reference or 'novelty works in law, medicine and the fine arts' and certainly, by the first decades of the nineteenth century it was unusual. In general, books became cheaper in the nineteenth century, and formats such as the duodecimo (12mo) were common, and even smaller formats were created or reintroduced, such as the sextodecimo (16mo), the vicesimo-quarto (24mo) and the tricesimo-secundo (32mo)(St Clair 2004, 116); the majority of books on archaeology and antiquities produced in this period are in 8vo format (Table 13). Folio is a significantly more common format for volumes on archaeology and antiquities than for books generally in this period. Sher (2006, 700, table 3) shows that of books published in the Scottish Enlightenment, just 2 per cent were in folio format.

Table 2: Archaeological publishing 1816-51, by region.
Table 2 graphRegionNo. of publications
Europe 49
World 46
General 6
Grand Total 316

As noted above, the antiquities of Greece, Rome, Egypt and Assyria have attracted far more attention in general histories of archaeology than British antiquities, and indeed attracted a great deal of public interest at the time—continental and world archaeology remain important priorities of archaeological researchers in Britain today. Yet the publication data show that there was a far greater number of authors producing work on British archaeology and antiquities at this time (see Table 2 and Table 4). It is also clear from the table that there was a significant number of folio volumes on antiquities and archaeology, not just on Mediterranean classical sites and antiquities, but also on British remains, some of which were published by leading publishers of the day; e.g. Cadell , Longman and Bohn (Table 5, Table 7 and Table 9). This is perhaps somewhat surprising given the prevalence of cosmopolitan tastes in this period. It is assumed today that this was a period in which aristocratic and intellectual interests were focussed primarily on Mediterranean classical remains, and as a consequence volumes on these have been extensively studied in recent years (e.g. Coltman 1999; 2006; Brylowe 2008; Scott 2003). However, the fact that leading publishers were producing equally expensive and prestigious works on British discoveries suggests that this phenomenon merits further attention. It is also the case that many works on Mediterranean classical antiquities remained well-known throughout the nineteenth century and beyond, while in general those on British sites and antiquities did not. These issues will be explored below.

Books on continental and particularly world archaeology also appear in this period, notably in the 1840s and 1850s e.g. Layard's volumes on Nineveh. John Murray focussed in particular on continental and world archaeology (see Table 6). While some are published in more expensive formats, smaller and more accessible formats were also produced. Murray's focus on overseas archaeology is unsurprising given his background and personal interests. His father, John Samuel (1778-1843) published the work of leading scientists of the day, including Humphry Davy, Michael Faraday and Charles Lyell, Lyell introduced Darwin to Murray, and Murray's son John (1808-92) was responsible for publishing Darwin's Origin of Species (Zachs et al 2004; Fraser 1996).

John Murray was passionate about overseas travel and published a series of popular travel handbooks which were to serve as a model for the better known Baedeker guides. He also developed interests in geology and history and achieved a significant reputation for publishing in these fields (Smiles 1891; Zachs et al 2004). H. Bohn (Weedon 2004) similarly published a significant number of volumes on continental and world archaeology, including the most expensive volume listed—the coloured version of the nine volume Antiquities of Mexico, priced at an astounding £63. However, he was also committed to producing works of serious scholarship for a wide readership, and his Libraries, which included the Scientific and Antiquarian (1847), represented a serious innovation in publishing, with each volume priced at 5 shillings (Table 5).

It is clear from Table 3 and Tables 5-10 that a small number of publishers, including Murray, H. Bohn, Pickering and Longmans, was responsible for producing many of the best known volumes on archaeology in this period; the biographies of these publishers, and the role that they played in the selection, presentation and dissemination of archaeological knowledge in this period, therefore merits serious attention (Feather 1988; see St Clair 2004 for list of manuscript archives of publishers, printers and booksellers).

The volume of books published on British antiquities is impressive. Almost every area of Britain is represented in the list of works produced, and this is perhaps unsurprising given the flowering of local archaeological and antiquarian societies in this period (Levine 1986; Hoselitz 2007). Many publishers only appear to have published a single work on archaeology or antiquities, suggesting that local firms were used (see for example, Rev G. Oliver's 1846 British Antiquities of Lincolnshire, printed by C.W. Oliver of Uppingham) (Table 3). There is huge potential for mapping these regional interests through bibliometric analysis, both chronologically and geographically, and for further exploring the ways in which the past was used in the negotiation of local identities (Hoselitz 2007). The intended market and the reception of such volumes might be examined through the scrutiny of newspaper advertisements and reviews and the increasing availability of searchable on-line archives facilitates this kind of analysis.

What is particularly striking from this survey is that access to volumes on archaeology and antiquities was restricted to a very small proportion of the population, and that wider perceptions of the subject would therefore have been shaped to a large extent by newspapers, magazines and church literature, and through the range of volumes available in public and circulating libraries. It is also clear that the subjects, publications and authors that are generally seen as representative of archaeology in this period are not reflected in the publication data.

The remainder of this paper will focus first on the publishing firm of Cadell and Davies, and in particular on their role in supporting antiquaries working on Romano-British archaeology and antiquities in the first part of this period, most notably Samuel Lysons, and second, on the volumes produced by Charles Roach Smith in the latter part of this period. While the quality of the publications was acknowledged by contemporaries, and has been admired by later scholars working within Romano-British archaeology (Scott forthcoming 2013; forthcoming 2014), this work did not have the impact that might have been expected given the quality of the scholarship. Their significant contributions to the development of archaeological thought and method have certainly not received the wider recognition and attention that they deserve. It will be argued here that this is due in part to decisions made by the authors and/or their publishers about how their work should be published.

These case studies will demonstrate the importance of reflecting on broader publication profiles in order to better understand the full range of archaeological literature that was produced in this period, with a view to stimulating further research. They will also show how decisions made by authors and/or publishers about the nature and format of publication played a significant role in determining the subsequent impact of their work and helped to shape wider perceptions of the value of a particular field of research.


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